Rick Santorum: 39Obviously, the headline here is Rick Santorum's lead, but arguably the most important element of this poll is Newt Gingrich's fourth place finish. Gingrich is no longer registering as a serious candidate in the state, and although Ron Paul will continue to play a peripheral role, Michigan is a contest between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney: 24
Ron Paul: 12
Newt Gingrich: 11
Santorum's lead over Romney is broad-based—he leads every
countyarea code except that of Oakland County in the Detroit suburbs (edit: and the Lansing area, where Ron Paul has a slim lead)—but don't forget that Newt Gingrich was dominating Mitt Romney in Florida less than two weeks before Florida's primary.
With Gingrich largely out of the running and two weeks left until Michiganders vote, Romney certainly has enough time to turn things around. His problem is that two weeks probably isn't long enough to develop a credible positive message, and savaging Santorum won't be as easy for Romney as nuking Newt. Santorum is not only more popular than Gingrich, but everybody expects Romney to go nuclear, which will make it harder for him to do so. Plus, he needs to conserve resources for Super Tuesday—not even Mitt Romney has unlimited sources of funding.
8:04 AM PT: Santorum's net favorability: +44. Romney's? +10. Gingrich is -9 and Paul is -19.
8:08 AM PT: Among evangelicals (48 percent of likely GOP voters), Santorum has a huge lead on Romney—28 points. Among non-evangelicals, Santorum has a 2 point advantage.
8:15 AM PT: PPP's Tom Jensen notes "only 47% of voters saying they're strongly committed to their candidate while 53% are open to changing their minds in the next two weeks." As things stand now, however, Santorum would benefit from Gingrich's withdrawal: "54% of his supporters would go to Santorum if he dropped out, compared to only 21% for Romney and 14% for Paul."8:17 AM PT: